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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Psych: “Autopsy Turvy”

Illustration for article titled Psych: “Autopsy Turvy”
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It’s no secret that Woody The Coroner is one of my favorite characters on Psych—I’d put him at a strong second behind Lassiter, with Guster a close third—so I was perhaps overly excited for a Woody-centric episode. Kurt Fuller is great as  the Santa Barbara Police Department’s affable and eminently quotable coroner, but part of what makes his performance so great is how he maximizes the potential of his brief appearances. Woody isn’t a fully fleshed-out character, and “Autopsy Turvy” stumbles to give Fuller enough good material to work with while Shawn and Gus go through the motions of another case full of the typical red herrings.

Woody is incredibly laidback with his job, but he’s hardly negligent, which makes the revelation of a significant oversight during an autopsy so surprising to all the other characters. Grace, a mortician who went to school with Woody, brings the error to the attention of the Chief. Shawn and Gus are quick to leap to Woody’s defense, but when checking out the bus stop where the deceased man was run over, Shawn begrudgingly admits that Woody made a mistake by declaring the death an accident, and the murder investigation begins. Woody and Grace have their strange, bewildering sexual chemistry to rekindle after all these years, Lassiter and Jules turn up for about 10 minutes, Henry gets his requisite five, and the rest is left to the investigation. Sometimes the formula yields something exciting, while other times its just boring. Tonight was more of the latter.

French Stewart and Kate Micucci show up as guest stars tonight, and they perform adequately. I hate to say it, but other than the Indiana Jones episode, I’ve been disappointed with regularly Pysch has relied on guest stars this season. The best over the course of the entire run of the series have been recurring characters—like those played by Cary Elwes or Ally Sheedy—but they got to recurring status because of initial popularity and strength. Stewart and Micucci are fine, though both have given much better comedic performances from more generous scripts, but their characters don’t serve a purpose other than showing up, becoming a suspect, and then exiting the story as soon as the plot moves on.

Stewart’s murder-story enthusiast was creepy and odd in all the right ways, from his dusty old bookstore to his office hidden behind a bookcase to his penchant for citing real world murders that mirror every new development in the investigation. His character leads Shawn and Gus through the backstory of the victim, to an old-timey dance hall, a psychic with a fake accent, and Kate Micucci’s bizarre performance artist. The psychic provides the most comic relief, and even puts Shawn in the awkward position of being the “real” psychic once it becomes clear the woman is a fraud. I get frustrated when Shawn focuses intently on looking like a psychic. Shawn as a highly observant private investigator seems like a perfectly logical alternative, but then the gimmick would be gone.

The problem with pulling back the curtain on Shawn’s abilities is that so many seasons of Psych have avoided the issue that to simply turn the psychic detective into an incredibly observant private investigator would seem arbitrary at this point. Why now? Why not three seasons ago? Psych feels stuck treading water by overcommitting to its initial premise, instead experimenting with genre homage. But not every week can be elaborate, so we’re left with episodes like this where shoving a minor character into the spotlight substitutes for that experimentation.

I’m at the point where I make a mental note every time a guest star shows up and add them to the list of suspects. Psych is comfortable playing itself into a corner where viewers seemingly can’t trust anyone, but can still always guess the correct suspect. Grace was pegged as the obvious 180-degree twist from the start, while French Stewart could never have been the culprit because of how obvious the crime would be. It doesn’t help that Stewart shows up dead with a suicide note when there are 10 minutes left, telegraphing another twist that exonerates him after the fact.


It was probably too much to expect a Woody The Coroner episode to feature wall-to-wall golden one-liners, but the Hangover themed episode provided more classic Woody moments than this one. Instead, we get a lot of dead ends to chase, some pleasant but forgettable guest appearances, and a predictable final twist. There are the usual amount of laughs sprinkled around the hour, but that only brings the episode back up to average. Gus and Shawn’s banter can’t save everything, but when Woody The Coroner doesn’t get enough good material to really shine, then I’m really disappointed.

Stray observations:

  • I’m pretty sure the Chief has more lines in this episode than in the entire rest of the episodes of this season combined.
  • Lassiter and Gus know way too much about Haley Joel Osment’s career, down to the name of his character in The Country Bears movie.
  • “How do you know this?” “ …Because I am a lonely individual.”